Is there any better way to celebrate the Phillies clinching a wild card birth than by making a swing by the happenings in Francisville? We couldn’t think of any, so we decided to make a stop along Ridge Ave. to check on things, thanks to a recent zoning permit that caught our eye. But before we get to what’s happening at 1519 Ridge Ave., let’s take a moment to compare the view today to the one from our last visit to this very block back in 2018. For context, this trip was just weeks before “You want Philly Philly?” became a rallying cry for another huge sports moment for the city.

The east side of the 1500 block of Ridge Ave. looking a bit rough around the edges in 2018
Looking up the same block today, with the east side (right) completely changed
A closer look at the ground floor of 1519 Ridge Ave.

We know that “empty lot” to “empty storefront” might not be seen as a big victory to everyone, so we are happy to say that it seems this will be an empty storefront for not much longer. According to an Insta post from earlier this year, Our Town Brewery out of Lancaster will be opening a second post here. The zoning permit we referenced also hints at a “bring-you-own-food” concept, turning the old BYOB concept on its head. Either way, we would imagine this new spot will have a large audience given all of the mixed-use development that’s been happening along here over the years, as the strikingly different streetscape can attest.

One of the key features of any streetscape is a bustling array of different types of commercial options for both near neighbors and those making a specific trek to the area. For the last several years, the corridor lagged somewhat behind the residential hustle and bustle taking place up and down the street. Empty storefronts were everywhere, with the ripped-up roadways and heavy construction the leading culprits for this spate of vacancy. However, we couldn’t help but notice just how many of those storefronts have filled in, and with businesses of all kinds. Let’s cruise north from our last spot to check out the scene.

Another view of the 1500 block, as seen from 16th & Ridge
Looking north at 28 more apartments where a supermarket once stood

Starting from the south, across the street at 1526 Ridge Ave. is Solace Pharmacy, which is a holistic wellness spot. Despite its recent completion in the last decade or so, this is actually one of the older buildings on the block.

1526Ridge-Solace Pharmacy
Solace Pharmacy makes up the entire ground floor of the mixed-use building

Back on the east side of the street, Natural Aesthetics is newly opened on the ground floor of 1533 Ridge Ave., also known as The Maven. When we stopped here last year to check things out, the ground floor wasn’t even built out, so we are thrilled to see a tenant gracing the street level here. The brickwork from Canno Design also helps this storefront really stand out along the corridor.

1533Ridge-Natural Aesthetics
Criss-cross brick patterns frame the windows to Natural Aesthetics

Back across the street again is CASUALUXURY, giving 1534 Ridge Ave. a fashionable look at sidewalk level. Sitting below yet another several floors of apartments, this boutique showcases the variety of new businesses that are popping up along this reinvented stretch.

CASUALUXURY, an atelier along Ridge Ave.

Our last stop today is at BOLD Coffee Bar at 1623 Ridge Ave., back on the east side of the street. In case you’re in need of some sustenance and a cold brew post-shopping, you’re in luck!

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A bold design for Bold Coffee Bar

This is just a sampling of what’s happening, and this doesn’t even begin to touch upon all that’s taking place as you continue to head north on Ridge. However, we’d be lying if we said it was all sunshine and rainbows, even though the commercial mass today is astoundingly different than years past. There are still empty storefronts, empty lots and the like, but once again we’re going to take the glass-half-full approach: think of the potential! If these gaps continue to fill in with fun, helpful ,or novel businesses, the commercial momentum will hopefully compound, and we’ll see things continue to fill in.

Looking south from Ridge & Ogden shows a less lively view

Before we part, we want to take a second to recognize why the existence of these businesses here is even possible: zoning. Ridge Ave. is completely lined with CMX-2.5 parcels from Broad St. to the SE to Girard Ave. to the NW. This zoning designation allows greater height and density, and we see it in action up and down the corridor. If the zoning was even slightly reduced to CMX-2, we’d see less by-right development and therefore fewer businesses lining this strip. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to parts of Girard Ave., limiting what can go in along an equally important commercial corridor. Perhaps that will change sometime soon, but we imagine it won’t. And that’s a shame, because bustling streets for pedestrians filled with thriving businesses is exactly what makes…Philly Special.